by John Curtis
At the 2012 London Olympic Games, it was a tough first day on the water for Canada - But it’s a long event and too early to count anyone out.
Finn fleet - London Olympics 2012 Day 1
Only two Canadian Teams raced today. Two races were sailed by the Star team of Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn and two races for Greg Douglas in the Finn Class. The 49'er sailed a practice race. Nothing to report there as teams rarely finish a practice race because it is considered bad luck - especially bad if you win the practice race.
The weather offered some tricky conditions for both fleets. The wind velocity was up and down dramatically from 8-18 knots. This wide variation was also accompanied by some very large wind shifts - as much as 25 degrees. These conditions resulted in some dramatic turn-arounds in positions during the racing.
In the Star class, Richard and Tyler had two decent starts today and showed why they have developed a reputation for strong upwind speed, grinding down two boats that started just ahead of them off the line in race 1. They went a little too far to the left on the first beat to be in the top group at the first mark (the wind having shifted about 15 degrees to the right) but despite this they were in ninth at the first mark and well within striking distance of the next group. What looked like a fairly dramatic shift on the second beat sent them to the back of the fleet.
Race two was also a close one, with the duo showing they had what it takes to stay in the hunt, rounding fourth at the first mark, losing ground downwind and then gaining back eight places in the second beat to get back up to sixth, but then losing four spots in a very tight pack going downwind to the finish. The final results do not tell the story of just how close the racing was.
Clarke has this to say after getting back to the dock: 'In the first race we had a nice start, maintained good contact with the pack and it all went pear shaped on the second beat. We were a bit out of phase and a bit unlucky. On the second race, we had a great second beat, rounding in fourth but just couldn’t hang on. It’s not the start we wanted, but it’s only the first day. The positions fluctuate all over the map and we’re moving our focus to more racing tomorrow'
To put things in perspective, only the top two boats (Brazilians and the Irish) had a 'low number day'. The rest of the fleet struggled with the fickle conditions. Even, Gold medal favorite, Ian Percy and 'Bart' Simpson were caught off guard by a big wind shift in race 1- falling back to 11th in the second windward leg after rounding the first mark in third. The Irish team's success was a bit of a surprise - going from almost last to second in the third leg of race 1. If they keep sailing as well as they did today they could be a factor in the medal race.
Clarke/ Bjorn are sitting 15th overall now. There are eight more races to go. After 10 races the competitors discard their worst result and the top 10 boats will sail one more race - known as the 'Medal Race'. In the Medal Race all scores count double and it cannot be discarded. There is lots of sailing left to go and plenty of time to move up the score board. Richard and Tyler are seasoned veterans who will put today behind them and be back ready to race tomorrow.
In the Finn class, Canadian Greg Douglas had a rough first day finishing 16th in the first race and 23rd in the second one, to be sitting in 20th overall. Greg seemed to suffer from getting on the wrong side of some large wind shifts. His speed looked good but it just was not enough to make up for the big shifts. I am sure that Greg will be speaking with his coach Chris Cook and will be back tomorrow with a positive attitude and ready to show off that great speed he has consistently demonstrated, especially when the wind gets strong.
Tomorrow the 49'er and the Laser Radial classes will sail their first two races. I am especially looking forward to watching our 49'er team who are reputed to be the fastest team in the world, having achieved the fastest average boat speed as measured by GPS over a week of racing at the 2011 World Championships in Perth, Australia. If this team can keep the boat on the right side of the wind shifts, they will have a good shot at a medal.
The RSX (windsurfer) men and women will have a practice race tomorrow and start racing on Tuesday.
Wind Athletes Canada website